lifestyle

New magazine SAMURAI.JP launches in search of Japan’s lost values

48 Comments
By Alexandra Homma

Talking about print media in an era of almost complete digitalization is like swimming against the tide. But dreaming about it is another matter, and Kiyomi Tagawa has been dreaming for a very long time of publishing a magazine that will share Japan’s spirit, values and undiscovered beauty with the world.

After 25 years, during which he worked as a professional photographer, Tagawa’s dream is now taking shape. A year ago, he founded a company and gathered his staff, determined to publish a magazine that would remind Japan and the world about his country’s cultural roots, spirit and beauty – something he felt was vanishing in an era of excessive materialism and financial crisis.

The quarterly magazine, called SAMURAI.JP, will be published both in English and Japanese. It focuses on presenting Japanese culture and aesthetics through places, work and the lives of people who have sustained and shaped Japan’s arts, traditions and cultural prosperity, but who have remained somewhat hidden from the eyes of the mainstream media and pop culture.

The first edition, dedicated to the beauty and cultural importance of Saga prefecture, home to Japan’s ceramics and porcelain, includes interviews with Sakaida Kakiemon, Imaizumi Imaemon and Nakazato Taroemon, 14th generation ceramicists and kiln masters; an introduction to the beauty and history of Karatsu city; the truth behind the taste of Japanese sake; the history of Yoshisuke Ayukawa, Nissan’s founder, and a number of other articles and interviews, including a special feature on Tohoku beyond the destruction, representing a rather unique and not so well known Japan.

The magazine also has a "foreigners in Japan" section, the first issue spotlighting Alex Kerr, the author of "Dogs and Demons." The article is a retrospect of his 50 years in Japan, his work and thoughts about the present and future of Japan - his second home.

“Expressing our concept of 'tamashii' (soul) on paper was extremely difficult,” says Daisuke Saito, SAMURAI.JP’s acting editor. “We continuously spoke about soul and spirit, and I struggled with ideas on how to represent them. But when we began interviewing the people featured in the first edition, the pride they had for their work was so powerful that I came to realize that is what we were trying to do: express ‘soul’ through the words of people, who had devoted their lives on something in a traditional samurai spirit.”

However, is there a place for a new print magazine in the 21st century, some may wonder. Tagawa and his staff think so, despite acknowledging the risks. “There is this moment in the process of developing a magazine, the moment when you take out the just printed paper and see your work in your hands for the first time. That moment is comparable to nothing else,” says Saito.

“Soul and spirit can be expressed only in the real world,” explains Tagawa, a rather quiet and modest man. “There are risks, but they are worth it. The 21st century is a century of the heart and mind, not materialism. Maintaining one’s roots and values is the first step toward achieving emotional satisfaction.”

SAMURAI.JP’s first English issue goes on sale at the end of June in major bookstores in Japan and via Amazon. Price is 1,200 yen. 20% of sales of the first edition will be donated for reconstruction of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-stricken regions in the Tohoku region.

For more information about the magazine, visit http://samurai.jp/blog/

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


48 Comments
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i for one, would like to read this

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me, too.

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3% of the population were Samurai, best to call it mud dwellers. Of course the 3% retarded the modernization of Japan so I guess why not.

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"Lost values"? Does it mean things like the compulsory anthem?

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the truth behind the taste of Japanese sake

Answer: rice

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Paul Stanley has really aged well. Where's Ace?

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I hope they have the good sense to produce a digital version as well, or they're not going to last long...

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Imagine anybody calling their country's leader "president", when past preidents have been adulterous, murderous, lying, corrupt, cheating, thieving, slave-owning war-mongerers... Such foolishness.

I'd like to see what this magazine is like before I comment on it either way, and shall order it off Amazaon. But I hope it's good. I like a bit of kulcha.

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koiwaicoffee: Yes, as we all know, Japan is pretty much the only country in the world, where they sing anthems, raise flags and recite pledges of allegiance.

Or?

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tideofiron at 07:55 AM JST - 9th June

I'm pretty wary of any magazine that names itself after a warrior class which used to slaughter children and women in the streets as a drunken past time

Maybe you don't understand The Samurai very well. You also need to do more research about Ronin and who there were.

There are 2 types of mafia in this world. Those who dress the part and those who wear suits and call themselves a political group.

The cowboys and the indians both had corrupt individuals on each side. The Indians were there first, why is it that American kids cheered for the Cowboys who took their land. A good propaganda machine can bend and twist the truth.

The real question about this SamuraiJP magazine is whether or not it will be used for propaganda? Will it aim to alter the perception of Japan's history?

As you can already guess by my name I'm pretty interested in Samurai and Ninja. @tideofiron - Relax. I'm not drunk. I'm only here to slash at your comments.

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Japanese people have a strange image of how their country is viewed and what it is and stands for. I seem to either hear people who think it is a Utopia, safest in the world etc. You also see others like this chap who feel the need to show how great Japan and it's history, culture etc are but for some reason seem to think the world needs educating in the matter. Rarely do Japanese dislike their country, in my experienece it is people who have had a hard life or who have lived abroad ro some time.

This magazine could be interesting but i can imagine a lot of excessive pro Japan spin and could well be out of touch wit reality, bit like Fox News in the US.

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Including Alex Kerr in the first issue interests me, I would be interested to leaf through it for a bit of intrigue.

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I'm sorry but I always find it slightly amusing how any old Japanese guy feels they have the "samurai spirit" when in fact the overwhelming chances are that their ancestors were planting rice in the field and would get their oshiri whipped if they even dared to so much as raise their eyes to a samurai.

I see this nationalistic "samurai fetish" develop among a lot of Japanese guys as they get older. It's an observable phenomenon. It's as if they have failed to develop their own character and values and are just grasping at straws...

I wonder how people would react if I started touting my "English knight spirit"... I can hear the laughter already...

But anyway, the sad fact is that this magazine will fold within a year or two. Foreign interest in Japan is disappearing fast. Maybe 25 years ago it might have found a niche market but those days have long since passed. The world has moved on.

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Why would anyone think that releasing a paper magazine would be a good idea? Electronic is the future and those who can't embrace it should definitely live in the past. Also if Japanese want to create more interest in it, call it "ninja" much more mysterious and catchy. I will miss books in the future, sitting with a good novel but it is time for them to go the way of NATO kan and Ozawa. They should bow out gracefully.

On another note, the content idea seems like it'd be really interesting do long as it doesn't treat the reader like a gaijin idiot... This weeks topic "how to correctly use chopsticks".

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I wonder how people would react if I started touting my "English knight spirit"... I can hear the laughter already...

Hahahaha. Shall we hold a jousting competition outside the British Embassy?

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Answer: rice

Hah!

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Wow, Japanese people telling us how unique Japan is. Just in time. I wonder what they'll think of next?

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I have seen worse excuses for a read, I will be on the look out & also interested in what Kerr has to say around 10yrs after his bang on book!

And while books/mags may be on the way out I still enjoy them!

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EUcitizen at 09:58 AM JST - 9th June- koiwaicoffee: Yes, as we all know, Japan is pretty much the only country in the world, where they sing anthems, raise flags and recite pledges of allegiance.

Well, Japan could be the only democratic country were people is forced to do so!

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I find it pretty strange that so many people are indignant about the state of modern life when they ARE IN IT! Half the people you meet these days grew up in the materialistic world. Basically, Japan from the 70s was moving in that vein. You have to be really old to qualify as someone who knows what Japan was about before its current material streak.

Samurai spirit isn't gone. It's just reimagined because it's nebulous and never really had a form. It's another legend that doesn't reflect the truth of the times. Knights weren't so chivalrous either. It's just rose glasses and fondness for the past.

And without a digital presence, yes, this magazine is shooting itself in the foot.

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Samurai spirit, Knights? They have gone, time has moved on we are in a country that clings to the past, how may TV shows are on showing the "Spirit" of these killers. From what I have read they killed with impurity, mostly women and children- big men. I have to say though as a magazine interviewing Kerr will be interesting, what he said is being played out now as the Disaster unfolds.

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Seems interesting to me...I don't really see it being propaghanda but rather a nostalgic view of Japan. It would be neat to hear about small, traditional business and things a little more off the beaten path.

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they would be better off trying to re-vitalize the old social order, where farmers were rated below nobility, but ABOVE the business class. loss of farmland to shopping malls and freeways in the Kanto district is short-sighted greed perpetuated in the name of shameless profit to a greedy few, if the spirit of Samurai and bushido is reintroduced, maybe there is hope more self-serving profiteers and incompetent corrupt politicians will be compelled to commit seppuku!

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I think that the way Japanese and foreigners think of 'samurai' is different. For many Japanese it is the spirit of endurance, patience, 'ganbaru till the end' type of thing. I don't think this magazine's aim is to publish articles about chommage and the sword. I think it is more of the latter, as they seem to be talking about 'soul'. Anyways, I'll be interested to see how this magazine evolves. As a foreigner who's been in Japan most of my life I'm not interested in sushi, geisha and what not. But I'm open to learning things I don't know about Japan yet, which despite the long years, I am affirmative are more than the things I know.

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It was all sounding quite interesting (well, the articles about ceramicists) till they mentioned Alex Kerr. Developed a bit of an antipathy after hearing him speak at the Kobe JET renewal conference in 1999....

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The Japan Quality Review (published in--I think--four languages) takes things in a more concrete, and possibly useful, direction (and has both print and digital versions)...

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The Samurai were a privileged elite class. Like all privileged classes through out the world they were a burden on their country. End of story!

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This magazine could be interesting but i can imagine a lot of excessive pro Japan spin and could well be out of touch wit reality, bit like Fox News in the US.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with Japanese being patriotic, it just depends on how the stories are being told. If it's used for propaganda purposes to influence the masses and follow in lockstep like sheep would be totally counter productive. I am for people being informed, as long as it's done in a responsible way. When referring to reality, I think you were referring to MSNBC.

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the magazine probably merits a read, but that cover is a pretty repulsive attempt to be artsy (ala butoh?), as that made-up character does not resonate with what i know of the samurai tradition.

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shirokuma2011

Thanks for that info about Japan Quality Review. I think Tagawa should take a look at it for his samurai-vision thing.

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If the beauty is "vanishing," it would be due to all that concrete that is covering it these days. And if the Japanese are losing their values, etc., it's due to the uniquely Japanese postwar ethos of work, work, work, build, build, build, destroy, destroy, destroy.

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Not many people really care about this, least of all the Japanese. Nice try but in-flight magazine calibre publications like this rarely succeed.

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History always repeats itself. People become disillusioned with the current age and start looking at the past through rose colored lenses hoping to find a better world. They overlook the downsides of the past and selectively pull forward points that cannot exist in the real world independent of all the other issues from that bygone time.

Reality is this, Japan has been a harsh place to live since the beginning. Repression, violence, war, absolute rule by a tiny ruling class, isolationism and a pension for lurching change that results in lots of Japanese being killed.

Not a lot to feel natsukashi (sentimental)over.

Like any other nation, the past was a hard place to live. For all the pink fluffy pointlessness of modern Japanese life, it is a hell of lot better for the vast majority of people than the past ever was. And that is the sad truth. Like it or not, this is as good as it has been.

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Looks more like "Sadako Quarterly." Really, does the cover art have to be so scary-looking?

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tkoind2- props. How conservative are Kerr et al? Yeah, old traditions have value, but you can't return to the golden age that never was. It's gone. And it only existed in the mind. Let go. Try something new.

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For all the pink fluffy pointlessness of modern Japanese life, it is a hell of lot better for the vast majority of people than the past ever was. And that is the sad truth. Like it or not, this is as good as it has been.

How true & also how sad, cud be done a lot better but no one in Japan wants to listen to me so I just make my life good & let the rest take care of themselves as they see fit

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Samurai literally means "to serve" and they were required to live by a set of values or rules that was more valuable than their own life. This code usually referred to as “bushido” emphasized hard work, knowledge, wisdom, temperance, art, literature, nature, frugality, honor and loyalty to death. Many people consider this code as the true spirit of Japan and the reason for its success.

And seeing how clueless people like tideofiron and Crikey are concerning this subject the timing of this magazine might just be a good idea.

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Haha this looks like the biggest insecurity complex I've ever seen.

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"It focuses on presenting Japanese culture and aesthetics through places, work and the lives of people who have sustained and shaped Japan’s arts, traditions and cultural prosperity, but who have remained somewhat hidden from the eyes of the mainstream media and pop culture."

This is going to be tough and garner enough sales to have a sustained run of success. I think The Japan Times has been doing this for years, and their frequent articles comprise a tiny fraction of what they do overall.

Good luck anyway.

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Kiyomi Tagawa should know what a samurai was: Hired warrior educated and trained to look upon fighting to death for his lord the extreme honor of man. (or, fighting for the lord in exchange for hundreds or thousands of koku of rice as stipend). Well and good, till you find out (not from Japanese history book) what the lords---at their heyday there were hundreds of them all over Japan---were: Parasites lived on rice farmers who were killed if failed to contribute enough koku of rice to the lord, also killed if dared to escape from the lord's domain. Since the more Koku of rice you gather the better, there naturally were free-for--all among the lords involving territorial disputes all the time, in that, the lord who owned more samurais who "look upon death as going home" usually won. Kiyomi Tagawa thinks (or pretends) those parasitic lords were the country of modern Japan, thus treat them as heroes. How about samurais killing each other for Kan, Hatoyama, Noda, Taniguchi, Kishi, Satoo, Tanaka, etc., does he still has the mind to eulogize them?

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Japan will be better off without NHK misleading its youth, day in and day out, into thinking how great and honorable these parasitic lords were and how beautiful and wnderful feudal ages of the past were. "Chukun (kun=leaders) Aikoku" is not a weapon to fight China, giving each individual freedom to excert his potential is. (A dream in Japan?). NHK should stop treating its countrymen as ants of Japan Inc.; left alone, everyone of them are among the best of the world, while forced to gathered together, they are no better than a bunch of Chinese.

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Tmtmsnb you really should read a few more history books before you try to explain Japanese history. The "free-for-all" ended in the 1600's with the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate and a central government in Japan. Japan then closed its borders and entered a period of peace and prosperity that lasted hundreds of years. Many people consider this period as the Japanese renaissance.

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tmtmsnb.

How did you come up with NHK in connection to the magazine? I don't see NHK mentioned anywhere.

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This joins a long list of similar magazines which have launched and folded within a year or two. They all seek to in some way "present" Japan to the West, usually in a favourable light. They have a kind of schizophrenic premise -- their readership ends up being largely Japanese who want to have some insight into what kind of impression westerners have of Japan (the typical Japanese obsession with what other people think of them). There was a magazine called just "Japan" which launched in 2001 (and folded in 2002) which had pretty much the same model -- a lot of copies which went to western readers were actually via subscriptions taken out by Japanese as presents for their western friends, or by Japanese companies for their western clients, seeking to "educate" them about Japan.

The only magazine with roughly this same remit which has managed to survive has been Kateigaho (KIE), which I suspect is because it is 1) subsidized by the publisher, and 2) mainly a vehicle to advertise western luxury brands to the Japanese.

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The thing about these magazines which their Japanese editors utterly fail to grasp (and I hope Samurai.jp will be an exception..) is that if I, as a foreigner, want to read and learn about Japan, I want to hear from and engage with JAPANESE people themselves ... I don't want to hear and read about what other foreigners think about Japan: why do I need to read a magazine for that? I could talk to my own friends and we could feel wise and self-important as we tell ourselves all about Japan, learning nothing in the process. I mean.. if I go to, say, Sweden, I want to talk to Swedes and learn what they have to say about their own country, not some American I find living in Stockholm, regardless of how long he's been there.

Almost all these magazines feel the need to showcase 'foreign experts' who maunder on about "Japan" and "the Japanese", or else they bring in some achingly self-regarding hipster from Berlin or New York or Helsinki to spend a week in a temple or interview a Japanese sword-maker. WHY? WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK..? (Obviously the Japanese themselves, that's why they do it...) If see one more article by Donald Richie about Japanese films, or one more interview about the service in top-end Kyoto ryokan or the Japanese approach to branding, I am going to spontaneously combust.

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Instead of Samurai.JP The new magazine should be called Sulu.JP. Because the future of Japan is not in the Samurai of the past but in Sulu as in Star Trek-Sulu. The leading culture in Technology should promote Star Trek like advanced concepts like String theory, teleportation, nano-tech.etc. Right now the world is undergoing a high tech revolution making new discoveries at unprecedented speed. And Japan is leading the way. Just think of your cell phone how fast thats advancing. So change Samurai.JP to Sulu.JP marketing Star Trek advanced tech concepts and you'll get more sales. Tee Hee...

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